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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 53



Verse 1

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

The speaker, according to Horsley, personates the repenting Jews in the latter ages of the world coming over to the faith of the Redeemer: the whole is their penitent confession. This view suits the context (Isaiah 52:7-9), which is not to be fully realized until Israel is restored. Also the "we" and "our," in Isaiah 53:2-6, suit the penitent Jews. However, primarily, it is the abrupt exclamation of the prophet: "Who hath believed our report" (that of Isaiah and the other prophets) as to Messiah? The infidels' objection from the unbelief of the Jews is anticipated, and hereby answered: that unbelief and the cause of it (Messiah's humiliation, whereas they looked for One coming to reign) were foreseen and foretold.

Who hath believed our report? ( lishmu`aateenuw (Hebrew #8052)) - literally, that which they have heard from us, repeating the term from the previous verse (Isaiah 52:15); whereas 'they who had not heard (the Gentiles) shall consider' 'who (of the Jews) have believed what they have heard from us;' referring to which sense Paul, quoting this verse, saith, "So, then, faith cometh by hearing" (Romans 10:16-17)

And to whom is the arm - power (Isaiah 40:10), exercised in miracles and in saving men (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:18). The prophet, as if present during Messiah's ministry on earth, is deeply moved to see how few believed on Him (Isaiah 49:4; Mark 6:6; Mark 9:19; Acts 1:15). Two reasons are given why all ought to have believed:

(1) The "report" of the 'ancient prophets;'

(2) 'The arm of Yahweh' exhibited in Messiah while on earth. In Horsley's view this will be the penitent confession of the Jews, 'How few of our nation, in Messiah's days, believed in Him!'

Verse 2

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

For he - `the Servant of Yahweh' (Isaiah 52:13).

Shall grow up before him - before God; as in God's presence. Though unknown to others, Messiah was known to Yahweh, who had accurately appointed by His counsel all the circumstances of His birth, in consonance with the character which He was to sustain (Vitringa). (John 1:11.) The Hebrew for "shall grow" is the prophetic preterite. 'He grew up,' the prophet beholding the future as though it were already an is the prophetic preterite. 'He grew up,' the prophet beholding the future as though it were already an accomplished fact.

As a tender plant - Messiah grew silently and insensibly, as a sucker from an ancient stock seemingly dead (namely, the house of David, then in a decayed state, note, Isaiah 11:1).

And as a root - i:e., a sprout from a root.

He hath no form (Hebrew, toar) - beautiful form: sorrows had marred His once beautiful form.

And when we shall see - rather (as the parallelism to "there is no beauty, that we should desire Him" requires), joined with the previous words, 'nor comeliness (attractiveness), that we should look (with delight) on Him.' So Symmachus, Lowth, and Hensgtenberg. The studied reticence of the New Testament as to His form, stature, colour, etc., was designed to prevent our dwelling on the bodily, rather than on His moral beauty, holiness, love, etc.; also a providential protest against the making and veneration of images of Him. The letter of P. Lentulus to the Emperor Tiberius, describing His person, is spurious; so also the story of His sending His portrait to Abgar, king of Edessa; and the alleged impression of His countenance on the handkerchief of Veronica. The former part of this verse refers to His birth and childhood, the latter to His first public appearance (Vitringa).

Verse 3

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

He is ... rejected of men - `forsaken of men" (Gesenius). 'Most abject of men.' Chadal (Hebrew #2310) 'iyshiym (Hebrew #376) - literally, 'He (is one who) ceases from men;' i:e., He is no longer regarded as a man (Hengstenberg). Note, Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 49:7.)

A man of sorrows - i:e., whose distinguishing characteristic was sorrows.

And acquainted with - as an associate; familiar by constant contact with.

Grief - literally, sickness; figurative for all kinds of calamity. So "hurt" is used in Jeremiah 6:14. Leprosy especially represented this, being a direct judgment from God. It is remarkable Jesus is not mentioned as having ever suffered under sickness

And we hid as it were (our) faces - rather, as one who causes men to hide their faces from Him (in aversion) (Maurer). But k

Verse 4

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

Here follows the explanation of the sorrows and contempt which He endured, as has been just described-namely, His being our Sin-bearer, and so suffering the penalty of our sins; which, however, the Jews did not comprehend, but thought that it was His own sin which He suffered for.

Surely he hath borne our griefs - literally, 'But yet (akeen) He hath taken (or borne) our sickness' - i:e., they who despised Him because of His human infirmities ought rather to have esteemed Him on account of them: for thereby "Himself took OUR infirmities" (bodily diseases). So Matthew 8:17 quotes it. The repetition of the same words as in Isaiah 53:3 - "grief ... sorrows:" chaalaayeenuw (Hebrew #2483) ... mak'obeeynuw (Hebrew #4341) - marks the vicarious appropriation of the full penalty of our sin by the Redeemer. In the Hebrew ( naasa' (Hebrew #5375)) for "borne," or took, there is probably the double notion, He took on Himself vicariously (so Isaiah 53:5-6; Isaiah 53:8; Isaiah 53:12), and so He took away. His perfect humanity, whereby He was bodily afflicted for us, and in all our afflictions (Isaiah 63:9; Hebrews 4:15), was the ground on which He cured the sick of our human sicknesses; so that Matthew's quotation is not a mere accommodation. See note 42 of Archbishop Magee, 'Atonement.' The word Himself in Matthew implies a personal bearing on Himself of our maladies, spiritual and physical, which included as a consequence His ministration to our bodily ailments. These latter are the reverse side of sin. His bearing on Him our spiritual malady involved with it His bearing sympathetically, and healing, the outward, which is its fruit and its type. Hengstenberg rightly objects to Magee's translation 'taken away' instead of "borne," that the parallelism to "carried" would thereby be destroyed. Besides, the Hebrew word elsewhere, when connected with sin, means to bear it and its punishment (Ezekiel 18:20). Matthew elsewhere also sets forth Christ's vicarious atonement (Matthew 20:28). Nasa is the term here used, with an allusion to the sin offering, Leviticus 10:17; the scape goat, Leviticus 16:22; and Aaron as mediating high priest, Exodus 28:38; so Ezekiel typically, Ezekiel 4:5-6; Lamentations 5:7 : cf. as to Christ, John 1:29; Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 2:24 : cf. also this Isaiah 53:11-12, end.

And carried our sorrows - literally, 'and (as for) our sorrows, He carried them' ( c

Verse 5

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

But he was wounded - a bodily wound: not mere mental sorrow; m

Verse 6

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. The extent of our malady, and our urgent need of cure, are next set forth. The words following are the penitent confession of believers, and of Israel in the last days (Zechariah 12:10).

All we like sheep have gone astray - (Psalms 119:176; 1 Peter 2:25). The antithesis is, 'In ourselves we were scattered; in Christ we are collected together: by nature we wander, driven headlong to destruction; in Christ we find the way to the gate of life' (Calvin). True, also, literally of Israel, before its coming restoration (Ezekiel 34:5-6; Zechariah 10:2; Zechariah 10:6 : cf. with Ezekiel 34:23-24; Jeremiah 23:4-5; also Matthew 9:36).

We have turned every one to his own way - implying that the apostasy of men is both universal and individual: of the race in general, and of each one in particular: one in guilt, diverse in its several manifestations.

And the Lord hath laid on him - `hath made to light on Him' (Lowth). Rather, 'hath made to rush upon Him:' hipgiya` (Hebrew #6293), from paaga` (Hebrew #6293), to meet: hath made to meet upon Him (Maurer).

The iniquity of us all - i:e., its penalty: or rather its guilt, as in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." He was not merely a sin offering (which would destroy the antithesis to "righteousness"), but "sin for us:" sin itself vicariously; the representative of the aggregate sin of all mankind; not sins in the plural, but "sin," and here, in Isaiah, "iniquity:" for the "sin" of the world is one (Romans 5:16-17); thus we are made not merely righteous, but righteousness, even "the righteousness of God." The innocent was punished as if guilty, that the guilty might be rewarded as if innocent. This verse could be said of no mere martyr.

Verse 7

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted. Lowth, after Cyril, translates, 'It was exacted ( nigas (Hebrew #5065)), and He was made answerable' ( na`

Verse 8

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

He was taken from prison and from judgment - rather, 'He was taken, away (i:e., cut off, answering to the following, 'He was cut off out of the land of the living') BY (through) oppression and BY (through) a judicial sentence:' a hendiad for 'by an oppressive judicial sentence' (Lowth and Hengstenberg). The Hebrew particle min (Hebrew #4480) expresses sometimes the starting point from which a thing takes its rise: from, owing to, through. Gesenius, not so well, 'He was delivered from oppression and punishment' only by death. The English version also translates, "from ... from," not 'by ... by.' So the Vulgate, 'de augustia et de judicio sublatus. est.' The Syriac also supports the English version. But "prison" is not true of Jesus who was not incarcerated; restraint and bonds (John 18:24) more accord with the Hebrew [ `otser (Hebrew #6115) - literally, shutting up, or restraint, from `aatsar (Hebrew #6113), to restrain]. Acts 8:33 translates as the Septuagint: "In His humiliation His is judgment ( krisis (Greek #2920), legal trial) was taken away" - the virtual sense of the Hebrew, as rendered by Lowth, and sanctioned by the inspired writer of Acts. The same Hebrew in Psalms 107:39, mee`otser (Hebrew #6115), is translated "through oppression." He was treated as one so mean that a fair trial was denied Him (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:55-59). Both His betrayer and His judge declared His innocence. The Hebrew, laquach, is used of taking away by a violent death (Jeremiah 15:15; Ezekiel 24:16). Jerome explained it of Christ's being taken up to glory.

Who shall declare his generation? (Hebrew, dowrow (Hebrew #1755)) - who can set forth (the wickedness of) His generation? i:e., of His contemporaries (Alford on Acts 8:33), which suits best the parallelism, 'the wickedness of his generation' corresponding to 'oppressive judgment.' But Luther, 'His length of life' - i:e., there shall be no end of His future days (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 6:9). Calvin includes the days of His Church, which is inseparable from Himself. Hengstenberg, 'His posterity.' He, indeed, shall be cut off, but His race - i:e., His spiritual seed, shall be so numerous that none can fully declare it. Chrysostom, etc., 'His eternal Sonship and miraculous incarnation.' But the clauses both before and after refer to His humiliation, not to His subsequent eternity of days, which is not stated until Isaiah 53:10.

For he was cut off - implying a violent death (Daniel 9:26).

For the transgression of my people - Isaiah, including himself among them by the word "my" (Hengstenberg). Rather, Yahweh (Hebrew #3068) speaks in the person of His prophet, "my people," by the election of grace (Hebrews 2:13).

Was he stricken - Hebrew, 'the stroke (was laid) upon Him.' Gesenius says that the Hebrew, laamow (H3807a), means them; the collective body, whether of the prophets or people, to which the Jews refer the whole prophecy. But Jerome, the Syriac and Ethiopic versions translate it Him. So virtually the Septuagint (eechthee eis thanatou). So the suffix (-mow) is singular in some passages: Psalms 11:7, His; Job 27:23, Him; Isaiah 44:15, thereto. Perhaps the Septuagint for the Hebrew, laamow (H3807a), 'upon Him,' read the similar words, lamawet (Hebrew #4194), 'unto death;' which would at once set aside the Jewish interpretation, 'upon them.' Origen, who laboriously compared the Hebrew with the Septuagint, so read it, and urged it against the Jews of his day, who would have denied it to be the true reading if the word had not then really so stood in the Hebrew text (Lowth). Messiah was the representative of the collective body of all men; hence, the equivocal plural-singular form, laamow (H3807a).

Verse 9

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

And he made his grave with the wicked - rather, 'His grave was appointed,' or 'they appointed Him His grave with the wicked' (Hengstenberg) - i:e., they intended (by crucifying Him with two thieves, Matthew 27:38) that He should have His grave "with the wicked" (cf. John 19:31), the denial of honourable burial being accounted a great ignominy (note, Isaiah 14:19; Jeremiah 26:23).

And with the rich in his death (Hebrew, deaths) - rather, 'but He was with a rich man at His death' - i:e., when He was dead. So the Hebrew preposition [b

Verse 10

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Transition from His humiliation to His exaltation.

Yet it pleased the Lord - the secret of His sufferings. They were voluntarily borne by Messiah, in order that thereby He might 'do Yahweh's will' (John 6:38; Hebrews 10:7; Hebrews 10:9), as to man's redemption; so at the end of the verse, "the pleasure of the Lord shah prosper in His hand."

Bruise - Hebrew, dak'ow (Hebrew #1792) (see Isaiah 53:5, the same Hebrew, "He was bruised for our iniquities"); Genesis 3:15, was hereby fulfilled though the Hebrew word y

Verse 11

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Yah eh is still speaking Yahweh is still speaking.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied - He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul, not a part of the travail of His soul; so the min (Hebrew #4480) means in mee`

Verse 12

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great - as a conqueror dividing the spoil after a victory (Psalms 2:8; Luke 11:22. 'When a stronger than he (Satan) shall come upon him and overcome him, He (Christ) taketh from Him all his armour, wherein he trusted, and divideth (his spoils').

Him - for Him.

With the great. Hengstenberg translates, 'I will give Him the great (or mighty) for a portion.' Compare the Septuagint and Vulgate, which support this view. But the parallel clause, "with the strong," favours the English version. His triumphs shall be not merely among the few and weak, but among the many and mighty. He shall triumph over the strong one, Satan himself. He shall divide the spoil with the strong - (Colossians 2:15 : cf. Proverbs 16:19.) 'With the great: with the mighty,' may mean, as a great and mighty hero.

Because he hath poured out his soul unto death. "His soul" - i:e., His life, which was considered as residing in the blood (Leviticus 17:11; Romans 3:25).

And he was numbered with the transgressors - not that He was a transgressor, but was treated as such when crucified with thieves (Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37).

And made intercession for the transgressors. This office He began on the cross (Luke 23:34), and now continues in heaven (Isaiah 59:16; Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1). Understand, because before 'He was numbered, He bare ... made intercession.' His meritorious death and intercession are the cause of His ultimate triumph. Maurer, for the parallelism, translates yapgiya` (Hebrew #6293), 'He was put on the same footing with the transgressors. But the English version agrees better with the Hebrew, and with the sense and fact as to Christ. Maurer's translation would make a tautology after "He was numbered with the transgressors:" parallelism does not need so servile a repetition. "He made intercession for," etc., answers to the parallel, "He was numbered with," etc., as effect answers to cause; His intercession for sinners being the effect flowing from His having been numbered with them.

Remarks: The objection drawn from the rejection of Messiah by the Jews is anticipated and met by the prophet at the beginning of the fullest and clearest of the prophecies concerning Him. Men judge by outward appearances, rather than by the inward and everlasting truth. The "report" of the ancient prophets from the beginning, and "the arm of the Lord" manifested in the miracles, and in the divine teaching of Messiah on earth, were a two-fold evidence of His mission from God, which leaves the Jew and the infidel alike inexcusable in their unbelief. The lowliness of His manifestation has in all ages been a stumbling-block to the carnal and the worldly. The Jews regarded the crucifixion of the Saviour as the penalty of His own sins, whereas it was that of their sins and of those of the whole human race. But though "despised and rejected of men," He was 'before Yahweh' in His birth, His childhood, and His public ministry. The Father had accurately appointed, in His eternal counsels of love and wisdom, all the minute particulars of His life and death as man's Representative and awning Substitute.


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 53:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

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